A jail riot and fire that killed 68 people in Venezuela’s deadliest tragedy in decades could have been prevented, according to the Venezuelan bishops’ conference.
In a statement released on 31st March, the bishops said the incident occurred like an “ominous event that could be seen coming, given the series of improvisations and deficiencies…that reign in the judicial, police and penitentiary system.”
While authorities have not offered an official version of events from the jail in the central city of Valencia, families and at least one prisoner gave similar stories to Catholic News Service on 29th March. Most stated that a disagreement between guards and inmates on 28th March escalated, leading guards to fire shots and someone using petrol to fuel a fire. At least two female visitors were among the dead.
Venezuelan jails are notoriously overcrowded and corrupt, with prison gang leaders often boasting more authority than the guards overseeing them.
“We must know the truth, because the truth will be freeing,” the bishops wrote. “That truth means an exhaustive and credible investigation.”
Picture: Relatives of inmates at the police station jail in Valencia, Venezuela, wait outside following a fire on 28th March. At least 68 people, mostly prisoners, were killed in the jail fire. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters).